Revealed: past lies of abuse witness

October 31, 2004

A WOMAN whose claims of Satanic child sex abuse helped put eight people in the dock had a history of making false allegations, which was known to police, Scotland on Sunday can reveal. Angela Stretton was the key police witness in the Lewis abuse case which collapsed this summer with charges against all the accused being dropped. An investigation by this newspaper has revealed that Stretton was convicted of making false allegations of child abuse in 1987, and that Scots police were aware of her track record of false claims before deciding to press charges. Last night, several of the accused – some of whom are suing for compensation – demanded to know why they were dragged through the courts by social workers and police on the evidence of a discredited witness. The results of our investigation also raise serious questions about whether the authorities have learned the lessons of previous abuse inquiries, and whether similar mistakes will be made in future. The Lewis case began in January 2003 when a small group of children told social workers they had been sexually abused. Initially, the allegations related only to two individuals and involved inappropriate touching. Island resident Stretton, now 37, emerged as crucial adult police witness in the case. After she became involved, the number of suspects spiralled to eight and the nature of the allegations broadened dramatically. Police documents seen by this newspaper show that Stretton told police that Satanic rituals were used in the abuse, and that adults were filmed having sex with children. The evidence included lurid claims of drinking blood, orgies, and slaughtering animals. In October last year, eight island residents appeared at Stornoway Sheriff Court charged with offences including rape, lewd, indecent and libidinous practises. The eight were remanded in custody for a week before getting bail. They faced years in jail if convicted but nine months later all charges were dropped without explanation. What also remains unexplained is why the case got so far when there was considerable evidence that Stretton’s testimony needed to be treated with the utmost caution. We can reveal that: • In 1987 Stretton was fined £100 at Leicester Magistrates Court after admitting making hoax calls to emergency services alleging a former landlord who kicked her out had been abusing his daughter. Police and social services examined the child several times for injury and found nothing after Stretton alleged the landlord and his wife threw her down the stairs. Stretton was only caught when the landlord identified her from police 999 tapes. The landlord, who asked not to be identified, said last night: “Angie is a very dangerous person. She makes lots of stories up.” • Stretton’s mother, Lily Place, said her daughter falsely claimed she had been raped when she was a 14-year-old in Leicester. “She claimed this man was stalking her when she came out of school and that they had intercourse,” said Place. “I got the police on to this and the police surgeon examined her and said she had not been touched.” Place, 75, was one of those falsely accused in the Lewis case. Not only does Stretton have a history of making false allegations, the authorities knew this when investigating the Lewis case. Stretton’s brother David Disney, who was also wrongly accused in the Lewis case, said he told social services in Stornoway in 2002 that his sister was a fantasist who had a long history of inventing abuse claims in the Midlands before moving to Lewis in the 1990s. “She’s a very sick person and the authorities should have known that. We want to make sure she gets the help she needs so she doesn’t do it again. We are very bitter sometimes because it has turned our lives, but we want to help her,” he said. “She has developed from minor things to this. What is she liable to do next? When the allegations first surfaced, it was obvious to me that my sister was up to her old tricks again. “She has a long history of making false allegations about sex abuse. I kept thinking, ‘If I could get to the authorities I could put them right about her with the necessary proof .’” …..

The Scotsman on Sunday

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